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November 14, 2018

Five Questions with Jackie Bates: The California Sunday Magazine’s Photography Director

For two years running, The California Sunday Magazine has been recognized with the National Magazine Award for excellence in photography. Behind the scenes of this achievement is Photography Director Jacqueline (“Jackie”) Bates, who will be joining us at 2019 In/Visible Talks.

Jackie is also Photography Director for Pop-Up Magazine, where she works closely with Creative Director Leo Jung. Previously, she was Senior Photo Editor of W Magazine, and she worked in the photo departments of Elle, Interview, and Wired. Her work has been exhibited internationally.

At the conference in January, In/Visible Talks Co-Founder Arianna Orland will be talking with Jackie and Leo about their prolific creative partnership. Their conversation—sure to inspire—will explore how they’ve overcome challenges together and delve into the magic that happens when two creative partners-in-crime collaborate.

As we look forward to meeting Jackie in person, here are her answers to five of our questions about her creative process.

What is your relationship to the creative process?

“It’s a high-maintenance relationship. I am constantly learning, doubting myself, and leaning on others for guidance and inspiration. As soon as I get comfortable, I know that it’s time to push myself even more and to go into uncharted territory.”

How or where to you find inspiration?

“I find inspiration, of course, by looking at photography—at what my publishing friends are doing, but also at artists’ projects that I discover by stepping away from my computer and meeting and talking to people, especially those not in my field. But I feel like my best ideas and inspiration come when I’m simply walking around the city, taking in the sounds and smells, and watching the changes in light, which is so unique to California.”

What was one of your biggest creative challenges?

“I’ve always worked for magazines that have existed for decades. The photography was already part of the brands, and you just had to follow along and not deviate too much. Starting a magazine from scratch and figuring out what the photography should look like was a huge challenge, but also the most gratifying moment of my career. It was a mix of feeling pressure to make something beautiful and meaningful, but also having the freedom to play and go with my gut. Working with a team who trusts you and your vision is rare, and I feel it every day.”

When did you first realize you needed to be in a creative field?

“My mom is a composer, so I grew up in a musical household—dancing, acting, playing music. I thought I would be a natural at painting and drawing, but that just wasn’t the case, no matter how hard I tried. I started taking pictures of my friends in middle school and amassed thousands of photographs of them. During my junior year of high school, I felt like my photography classes weren’t rigorous enough, so I worked at Gap Kids all year to pay for a program at Parsons Paris. After that, I knew that telling stories through photography was what I wanted to do, so I interned at galleries, museums, and magazines to better understand the ways we surround ourselves with photography. Two weeks after graduating from the School of Visual Arts, I got a job as a photo assistant at Interview Magazine. That was fourteen years ago.”

What drives you to create?

“The people I work with. Our remarkable writers. The brave subjects in the magazine who trust us to tell their stories. My friends and family.”

BONUS ROUND: Who is one of your heroes?

“Leo finished his Q&A before me [read it here], so it looks like I’m copying his answer, but it’s the same: my mom. I grew up in an environment in which my mom said ‘yes’ to every creative curiosity I had.”